For the Love of Jack

Jack1

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

Meet Jack. A four pound Maltese dog. But he’s more than that to his mom, Karen Chamberlain. I asked Karen to stop by today to talk about Jack.

“Why don’t we start with what Jack means to you.”

“Jack is my child. I know that’s hard for some people to relate to, but he really is, that’s really how I feel about him. He came into my life when he was just 9 weeks old and 1 lb., at a time in my life when I wanted someone to take care of, someone to look after apart from myself, and it’s been my joy to love him and care for him ever since. He’s more than my dog, he’s my baby, and my soul mate. We have a connection that goes beyond owner and pet.”

Jack2

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

On November 11, 2013, thieves ransacked Karen’s apartment in Studio City, California, and stole Jack.

“When the thieves took him, they ripped out part of my heart, and his.  He’s just waiting for me, he’ll always think he’s in a temporary life and that mom will be there soon and take him home.  That’s one of the hardest things about this, knowing that he was scared, knowing that he’s still confused, and not being able to do anything about it.”

Theft of pets, especially pure-breeds like Jack, is on the rise:

 

Karen is offering a $5,000 reward with a no-questions-asked return policy.

While there was nothing Karen could have done to prevent Jack from being stolen, I asked her what people can do to protect their pets.

“First, microchip them.  It’s NOT a GPS tracker, but it’s the only way to tie your pet to your name and contact information (a collar with tags is great if your dog or cat wanders off and some kind person finds them, but if they’re stolen, that can be removed, so do both). Be sure to register the chip and keep up the registration. And then there are the obvious things: don’t leave your pet unsupervised where they can be grabbed—your yard, tied up outside a store, etc. Most dogs are stolen because they’re easy marks. Treat them like you would your child, because that’s how they feel about us–we’re they’re world, they don’t want to be apart from us, and when they’re taken away, they can’t find some kind policeman or helpful adult and tell them what happened.”

I asked Karen what she’s done to find Jack.

“I’ve done pretty much everything that anyone has suggested: a Pet Amber Alert and a Home Again alert; I was on the local news right after it happened, and again recently when ABC7 did a story about pet theft; I’ve posted and distributed fliers all over L.A., and to groomers and vets. I’ve handed them out at pet-related events; I’ve worked with a private detective; started a Facebook page for him that has brought together animal lovers from all over who have been unbelievably supportive and have helped look for him, both online and by pounding the pavement; I’ve posted on various lost pet sites; placed bumper sticker magnets of his flier on my car and on several friends’ cars; scoured the internet, the animal shelters, Maltese rescue sites, craigslist, ebay, etc.); I’ve even talked to animal communicators and psychics. I also pray and meditate.”

Karen will never stop looking for Jack. Will never stop wondering where he is and if he’s okay. If he knows his mom is looking for him and how worried she is about him.

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

Photo courtesy of Karen Chamberlain

If you’ve ever known the love of animal, then you understand the depth of Karen’s love for Jack. And perhaps a bit of the devastation she feels every day that her fur baby is missing.

Jack3 Jack is Missing

What can you do to help?

“A good friend is always reminding me that ‘it just takes one’—one person can make all the difference. So the more people who are aware, however we can reach them, the more likely we are to find that one person. Jack was most likely sold pretty quickly, which means he could be living anywhere now. And he could very well be living with someone who doesn’t  even realize he was stolen. So spreading the word is vital.”

And if you happen to see a pup that looks like Jack?

“If you think you see Jack, and you can (without putting yourself in danger) get a picture of him, you can text or email me, along with information about where he’s living, that’s great. I guess it all depends on the circumstances you see him in.If he’s with someone who is easy to talk to, who seems like the kind of person who’d be horrified to know they have a stolen dog, then it’s likely they’d be willing to talk to you. Show them Jack’s flier, ask them to call me.  If he’s with people who don’t seem safe to approach, well, that’s harder. I don’t want anyone putting themselves in harm’s way. But let me know where you think he is, and if you can sneak a photo to text or email me, then I can see if it’s him and take steps to recover him. I truly, truly am not interested in where or how or from whom they got him, I just want him back.”

No matter where you live, please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends. Help Karen bring Jack home. You never know, you could be the one person to make a difference.

Find Jack on Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/HelpFindJackTheMaltese
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23jackismissing&src=typd
email: lost_jack07@yahoo.com
call or text: 818-452-8722

Please use hashtag #JackisMissing.

 

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Life, Take Three

A few weeks ago, as I was doing a final read-thru of my upcoming release, Life, Take Three, I thought, wow, I really love this story.

My first thought? That sounds really conceited, Suzanne. My second thought? But why? I mean, if I as the writer do not love what I write, how can I expect a reader to love it?

And then I started thinking about why I loved this story so much. The answer is that, though neither the story nor the characters bear any resemblance to me or the events in my life, the general themes of the book mirror the aspects of life that I hold most sacred. Here are just a few:

Love. Isabel Stevens has spent her entire life seeking the most elusive prize of all: her father’s love. Only when she stands up to her father and reclaims all that she gave up in order to earn his love does she come to understand that her father’s love was there all along.

Faith. In God, yes, but more than that is the belief that there is more to life than meets the eye. In Life,Take Three I write about the afterlife and about destiny. I’m not sure I believe that events in life unfold in exactly the same manner as they do in the book, but I do believe that nothing in life happens by accident.

A sense of humor. Isabel’s life is in shambles (she even admits that she has become a stark raving bitch) but she never loses her sense of humor.

What about you? As a reader, do you tend to read books that speak to you and make you think about life? Or do you prefer to escape reality and seek solely to be entertained?

If you’re a writer, do you include elements of yourself in your writing?

Life Take Three Cover FINAL

 Groundhog Day meets Heaven Can Wait

Attorney Isabel Stevens’s life is in a downward spiral. On the worst day of her life, she is killed in a fatal car crash. After discovering a loophole in the No Returns policy in heaven, Isabel is given a one-time opportunity to relive the last day of her life. The only rule? Everything must happen exactly as it did the first time around.

With the help of a guardian angel, Isabel begins to see where her life went off course. When the day is up and she returns once more to heaven, she pleads for the opportunity to go back and make things right. Her wish is granted, but when she learns the price she must pay, she begins to wonder whether she’s up to the task. Determined to find a way out of her dilemma, she accepts the terms. Will she succeed and live to see another day? Or will she defy the agreed-upon terms and suffer the consequences?

Life, Take Three is available now for Pre-Order. Click here to reserve your copy today.

 

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Mad Libs: The Antidote to Writers Block?

Writers Block

For weeks now, I’ve been completely consumed by a major system implementation at work. Long, exhausting days have led to unproductive nights of writing (more precisely, starting at a blank screen) and going to bed even more frustrated than I was when I left the office.

I haven’t written a single new word on my WIP in months. I haven’t even written a new post for my blog. I have, however, been able to work on edits and getting my second book ready for publication. But still, I haven’t felt the joy that writing new material brings in far too long.

And so the other night, determined to change the tides, I sat down to write a blog post about a movie I’d seen over the weekend (The Judge) and how it made me think about my relationship with my own father. On the drive home, my thoughts flowed like lava. But when I booted up the laptop and sat down with a blank screen? Nada. Not a darn word in two hours.

Frustrated, I crawled into bed and contemplated the situation. I thought about the two types of posts I usually write for my blog. The first is life matters. The deep thoughts that make me contemplate life. I love thinking about and interpreting life in ways that make me grow as a person.

Mad LibsThe other kind of post I typically write involves some kind of humor (could be sarcastic wit or something that I find gut-wrenchingly funny). That’s when I realized that it had been far too long since I’d laughed. I’m talking about the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes. That kind.

The problem was, I wasn’t feeling particularly funny. And then an idea struck like a thundercloud. Mad Libs. Remember those (and unless you’ve lived in a cave for the last forty years, you should)? The otherwise benign stories with little blanks that you fill in with random words (verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc) that make the story really funny?

And so, I queried my Facebook friends for an assortment of words and came up with this. I hope you enjoy.

The Criteria (words to be inserted below)

  1. A woman’s name                                                   15. Body part
  2. Time of day                                                          16. Adverb
  3. Feeling/emotion                                                     17. Feeling/emotion
  4. Body part                                                              18. Feeling/emotion
  5. Adjective                                                                19. A comfort food
  6. Body part                                                               20. Profession
  7. Fruit (plural)                                                           21. –ing verb
  8. Body part                                                               22. Exclamation!
  9. Number (20 or higher)                                            23. Furniture
  10. Adverb                                                                   24. Number
  11. Room                                                                    25. Body part
  12. Noun                                                                     26. Something cold
  13. Number                                                                 27. Body part
  14. Number                                                                 28. A man’s name

Menopause is Funny

The Subject: Menopause (because it’s funny, right?)

Marlena awoke one evening feeling rather jealous, and not only that, her uvula was gangly and touching her foot. She fanned her pomegranate, wiped sweat from her neck and realized there was only one explanation. She was only twenty-one years old and she was facing menopause. To be sure, she slowly made her way to the attic and jumped on the puppy. Ah ha! Just as she suspected. She was fourteen pounds heavier than the night before and there were seven new wrinkles on her ankle.

Her emotions began to swing adventurously from angst to happy. She needed a meatloaf ASAP! And where was the phone? She had to call the Writer to do something about her kissing. No answer! “Oh my gravy,” she screamed before falling on the umbrella stand in a fit of tears.

Nine minutes later she didn’t remember a thing till her belly button began to cramp and a milkshake-like chill made her buttocks quiver. Someone was going to pay for this, and it might as well be Brad.

Be honest, did it make you laugh? Did you ever use Mad Libs at parties when you were young?

Tune in next week when I take a scene from my current work in progress and Mad Lib it! In the meantime, drop a comment below and provide a few words for next week. I need body parts (be creative but keep it at least R rated), a physical description (of a person), adverbs, a direction, verbs (ending in ‘ed’).

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The Meaning Of Life

Dick and Rick Hoyt. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Dick and Rick Hoyt. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

In honor of the Kona Ironman World Championship tomorrow, I would like to share the amazing story of Dick and Rick Hoyt, a father and son duo whose story epitomizes the words love and devotion.

After being deprived of oxygen at the time of his birth in 1962, Rick Hoyt was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. As a result, his brain cannot send the correct messages to his muscles. Because of the severity of Rick’s condition, his parents were encouraged to institutionalize him because there was no chance of a recovery or of Rick living a “normal” life.

His parents, Dick and Judy Hoyt, wouldn’t hear of it. They were determined to give Rick every opportunity to live as normal a life as possible. Rick’s mother spent hours every day teaching him the alphabet and at the age of 11, Rick was fitted with a computer that enabled him to communicate. At 13 he attended public school and went on to graduate from Boston University in 1993.

Team Hoyt began in 1977 after Rick read an article about racing and became inspired. His father, Dick Hoyt, then 37, was not a runner.

But for his son, he became one.

After their first race, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” After their first five-mile run, Dick began running every day. When Rick was at school, Dick ran with a bag of cement in the wheelchair.

Dick and Rick Hoyt. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Dick and Rick Hoyt running first Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Team Hoyt began racing nearly every weekend, and to date the father-son duo have competed more than 1,000 endurance events, including 70 marathons and almost 300 triathlons. They have run the Boston Marathon 30 times, and in 1992 they biked and ran across the US, completing 3,735 miles in 45 days.

And they have completed six Ironman Triathlons.

Ironman will push the limits of even the fittest athlete in the best imaginable conditions. Imagine swimming 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean. Imagine biking 112 miles through barren lava fields with 45mph crosswinds and temperatures up to 120 degrees, and running 26.2 miles in temperatures that can average 95 degrees in the shade.

Now imagine doing that while towing another human being.

Dick pulling Rick on swim. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

Dick pulling Rick on swim. Photo courtesy of www.TeamHoyt.com

For the swim portion of a triathlon, Dick attaches a rope to his body and pulls Rick in a boat. For the cycle portion, Rick rides on the front of a specially-designed tandem bike. For the run, Dick pushes Rick in his wheelchair.

And Ironman courses, by design, are never flat.

Here is their story:

Dick Hoyt is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard. Now 73, he and Rick spend less time racing and more time doing speaking engagements. For more information, visit Team Hoyt’s website at www.teamhoyt.com.

What about you? Who or what inspires you?

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Week 1 Post Mastectomy-Still Waiting on Fluffy Kitten and Unicorn

In recovery room.

In recovery room.

When I planned for the seven weeks of leave that my bilateral mastectomy would require, I made a list of things I hoped to accomplish during this time. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Watch the first three seasons of the show everyone is talking about, Downtown Abbey
  2. Learn the words to every John Mayer song
  3. Finish writing my current Work in Progress
  4. Finish final edits on my debut novel, and seek out beta readers
  5. Receive fluffy kitten and a unicorn

What I didn’t count on was the reality of the toll such a major surgery would take on my body.

And why would I? I mean, I do cross-fit twice a week, I run and do yoga. I’d bounce back from this quickly, right?

Um, yeah, about that.

What I didn’t count on was the pain that redefined the 1 through 10 pain scale. What I used to think of a 7 or 8 now has new perspective. On day 2 I felt pain that was off the charts even after an injection of Dilaudid and two tablets of Percocet.

Another thing I didn’t count on was the emotional outbursts. On Day 5, over a bowl of Greek yogurt and fruit I began to sob for no apparent reason. I’ve had several of these crying jags and now no longer question them.

Maybe it’s all just a part of the process of accepting that my life has been forever changed. And so has my body.

One day soon, after a second surgery, I’ll have beautiful, perky breasts but right now I have lumpy, bumpy bruised clumps where my breasts used to be. Touching them freaks me out. Looking at them makes me cry again.

And the last thing I hadn’t counted on was being possessed by Zombies. They let you think you’re in control but I’m on to them now. They’re sneaky little devils who turn your mind to mush, make you drool and cause you to wreak untold havoc on the world when you’re asleep. And despite the fact that I’ve been off the narcotic since Day 5, they’re still working their evil.

At home watching the first episode of Downtown Abbey. Again.

At home watching the first episode of Downtown Abbey. Again.

For example, I’ve watched the first episode of Downtown Abbey no less than seven times. The first three times was because I didn’t remember having watched it already. The next four times was because the characters, the setting and the storyline changed every single time I watched it. I’m SERIOUS!

What has helped is the love and support from all of you. I cannot express how much it helps to know that there are people out there—plenty of whom I’ve never even met—who have stopped by my website or sent a Tweet or FB Message to let me know they are thinking about me. *being crying jag* Please, keep them coming. My husband and my sister, Pamela, have done a wonderful job caring for me, and I love them dearly for it. But your messages mean a lot. Especially since it doesn’t seem that I’m going to receive my fluffy kitten or a unicorn. *resuming crying jag*

Update: This is a repost from 2013. I’m happy to report that I did in fact receive an ample supply of unicorns and one fluffy kitten.

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Attack of the Killer Sleeping Bag

Spooky Halloween Images

It’s October. Time for raking leaves, eating candy corn and making costumes for our children. In a few week’s time, the streets will be filled with ghosts and goblins. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve invited a special guest to get you in the mood for the festivities. So pull out your Ouija board, invite a few friends over and serve up some hard hot apple cider.

Elaine Calloway HeadshotMy guest today, Amazon Best Selling Author Elaine Calloway, writes ghost stories set in Southern towns. Originally from New Orleans, she grew up with a love of Gothic architecture and all things supernatural. She is currently writing the contemporary fantasy Elemental Clan Series as well as the paranormal/humor Southern Ghosts Series.

 

And so, without further ado, here she is. Take it away, Elaine!

* * * * *

Thanks you Suzanne for letting me guest blog today!

I’ve recently started writing and releasing a Southern Ghosts Series, and that got me to thinking about the ghost stories we told as kids. The things that made us jump in the middle of the night, the eerie feeling we would get on the back of our necks.

At one slumber party, we were asked to bring our sleeping bags but most of us wound up sleeping on the playroom floor. At one point (it must have been during a deep REM sleep) I woke up. Instantly, I felt strange, eerie. The tiny hairs at the nape of my neck were standing on end. My hands shook. Everyone else was asleep, but all I could see was a random shape.

Horror flooded through my veins as my mind reeled with what to do next. I was certain this was a strange person who had broken in. Someone–or something–that would be determined to hurt me. For several minutes, I sat completely frozen and afraid to move. What could I do? I couldn’t even get the screams out.

After waiting several moments in silence, I finally decided I’d had enough. If this person or thing wasn’t going to attack me, I was going to attack it! And I did. Turns out, it was my sleeping bag someone had placed next to me, and the shadowy room made it look like a human being.

Elaine Calloway Book Cover

We all love ghost stories. They entertain, frighten, and heighten our emotions. I hope you enjoy my first in the Southern Ghosts Series, NO GRITS NO GLORY, Click here to read more.

Connect with Elaine online at http://www.elainecalloway.com.

What about you? What’s your favorite part about Halloween? Do you have any good ghost stories to share?

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Breast Cancer Self Exam: Your Man Reminder

Your Man Reminder

As a recent breast cancer survivor, and in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I’d take a moment to remind you how important it is to do regular self-exams.

I’ve invited a few of my friends to show you how. Please be sure to watch until the end. You won’t be sorry!

So go ahead, Touch, Look and Check. And drop a comment below to let me know if you enjoyed the video!

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Russian Roulette or Mastectomy: My Personal Journey

I’m in the war of my life, at the door of my life, got no choice but to fight til it’s done.
War of My Life, John Mayer

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’ve decided to repost a series of blogs I wrote last year (2013) about my breast cancer journey. Writing about the process helped me cope with the feelings I had before, during and especially after my surgeries, and I received several emails from women going through the same or similar experience.

My hope in reposting these blogs is that more women whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer will know that they are not alone. And so, without further ado, here is the start of of my journey:

I love John Mayer. More correctly, I love John Mayer’s music. I mean, he’s not hard on the eyes but he is commitment phobic and, well, I’m a happily married woman. But his music is bluesy and soulful and it speaks to me.

Last Monday, as I drove the 55 miles from home to work, I heard the song War of My Life, and while I’ve probably heard the song a hundred times, this time, it spoke to me. And I realized that, since I received the results of my breast biopsy on April 30th (see I’m a Noble Warrior, I’ve Got This), I’ve been engaged in the war of my own life.

Here’s how it started. On Monday evening, April 29th, I picked up a voicemail from my doctor. “Great news on the biopsy, Suzanne. No cancer. I’ll call you tomorrow to check in.” I heaved a small sigh of relief (I didn’t really expect it to be otherwise) and went to bed.

The next morning as I’m driving to work, the phone rings. I answer it (using my built-in, hands-free setup), and it’s my doctor. “Hi Dr. McClure,” I said, “thanks for the great news on my biopsy.” “Yeah, about the biopsy,” she begins, “it’s true that you don’t have a cancer, but they did find something called Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia.”

“Atypical what?” Turns out that Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia (ALH) is a pre-cancerous condition (in the milk lobes) which may or may not become cancer. “So that means there is surgery in your future. An excisional biopsy (lumpectomy) at a minimum. Unless you decide to do something prophylactically.”

“Wait, what?” I said. “Prophylactically? As in, mastectomy?” By the time I pulled into the parking garage at work I felt like I was living in a parallel universe. And then, when I’d gathered my wits about me, I set out to learn more about my condition. And when I’d gathered all the facts, I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy. Here’s why:

1. A person with no risk factors for breast cancer has a 10% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime. People with ALH have a 4-5 time greater risk of getting breast cancer. So instead of 10%, my risk is now 40-50%.

2. Women between the ages of 45-55 (I’m 52) with ALH have the highest future risk of developing breast cancer, making my risk higher than 40-50%.

3. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer have an even higher future risk of developing breast cancer.

I have a strong family history of breast cancer.

In 2007, at the age of 51, my sister Diane was diagnosed with ALH. Before undergoing a lumpectomy to remove more tissue, she had a breast MRI which revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The lumpectomy revealed that she had cancer, and that they did not get clear margins (meaning there was cancer in the perimeter of the sample).

After undergoing another MRI, the radiologist saw something in the other breast that looked like it could maybe be something suspicious after all. A second lumpectomy was performed on the other breast which also revealed cancer with no clear margins.

It became clear that my sister’s best option was bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (also known as radical mastectomy). The pathology of the tissue removed revealed hundreds of tiny tumors in both breasts that were not seen on imaging.

Me and my sister, Pamela (and her husband)

Me and my sister, Pamela (and her husband)

Three months later, at the age of 49, my sister Pamela found a lump. A mammogram revealed nothing unusual. An MRI revealed a tumor. Deciding on the more conservative lumpectomy, the pathology revealed two tumors, side by side: one tumor was cancer, the other was ALH.

Though both of my sisters tested negative for the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 and BRCA2), a woman who has more than one immediately family member (mother, sister, daughter) who has had breast cancer but tested negative on the BRCA 1 and 2 test, has about a 40% chance of developing breast cancer in her life.

So, what does all that mean for me? In terms of risk, I’m not sure. It isn’t as simple as adding the risk of having ALH to the risk of having strong family history together. The truth lies somewhere in between and every medical professional I’ve spoken to, from surgeons to oncologists to genetic counselors, seems to have a different answer.

But the bottom line for me was this. Whatever the actual risk percentage is, it is too high for me.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

 

And so, after carefully considering all options—weighing the pros and cons of each—I have decided that, rather than playing Russian Roulette with my life and opt for the most minimally invasive option (lumpectomy), I’ve decided to eliminate my lifetime risk (as well as a lifetime of fear) by having a bilateral mastectomy (I prefer even numbers and don’t wish to be known as the Uniboober).

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

But I didn’t come by this decision quickly or easily or without a lot of struggle (I’ve swung to both sides of the pendulum so many times it’s made me dizzy), and until last week, I wasn’t 100% certain I’d made the right decision. And then, last week, events unfolded that crystallized my decision. Here’s what happened:

Last Monday, while discussing my situation with a coworker/friend, she said, “You know, Suzanne, it seems to me that you’ve been given a warning sign. Maybe your mother is trying to tell you that she couldn’t stand to see another one of her babies suffer the way your other two sisters did.”

That night, I broke down and cried for the first time since this began (which is shocking for me, I’m a crier). Big gulping sobs that shook my whole body. As I crawled into bed that night I snuggled the teddy bear that my mom had crocheted for me when I was eight twenty-eight and when I held him, I felt her love. And then I talked to her. “Mom, I need for you to tell me what to do. And you need to pretty much hit me over the head with the answer.”

Tuesday I saw the breast surgeon who told me that ALH is tricky because, when it becomes invasive cancer, it isn’t normally seen on imaging (as in both my sisters cases).

Wednesday night my sister Pamela called. I hadn’t spoken to her since the day of my diagnosis and I didn’t know which way on the pendulum she would swing. When I finished telling her of my struggle to make a decision she said, “Well Suz, it’s a no brainer. Have the surgery. All of us Whitfield girl’s should have it. I wish I’d done it myself.”

And in her words I heard my mother’s voice, as clearly as if she’d been standing in front of me (hands on hips and wagging a finger at me). And so my decision was made.

On Thursday I woke up feeling lighter than I had in a long time.

On Friday I spent the morning communing with butterflies (I simply adore them) at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. That afternoon I met with the plastic surgeon who will be doing my reconstruction, and he was funny and kind (seriously, his name is actually Dr. Kind) and it further cemented my decision.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

And finally, as I sat in rush hour traffic on the freeway heading home, I kid you not, a white butterfly flittered in front of my window, pausing for several seconds before taking off.

In that moment, I knew my mother was speaking to me. Good job, Suz. You made the right choice.

And so, sometime soon (I’m trying to plan around the John Mayer concert on July 23rd) I will be having a bilateral, nipple sparing mastectomy with reconstruction.

What about you? What “war” have you had to fight, and how did you go about making your decision? I want to know.

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Date with a Duke: Q&A with Sara Ramsey

Sara_Ramsey-200x300My guest today is Sara Ramsey, award-winning author of the Muses of Mayfair historical romance series. Her next book, Duke of Thorns is due out tomorrow! Sara can usually be found drinking overly-artistic lattes, obsessing over the latest fashion trends, drinking champagne, or working on her next Regency historical romance. She lives in San Francisco, California, but she left her heart in Iowa.

So, what does a day in the life of Sara Ramsey, glamorous romance novelist, look like?
Much less glamorous than one would expect. First, there’s the whole day job thing. Need I say more? I usually write for an hour in the morning before heading off to work. As deadlines get closer, I also write in the evenings – usually over wine at my favorite wine bar. The staff at the cafes I go to know me so well now that they just keep pouring and leave me alone – although one of them swatted my hand with a newspaper last week when I was checking Twitter instead of typing on my manuscript :)

Tell me about your writing process? Mac, PC or pen and ink?
I write on my Mac laptop, preferably with champagne in hand, conjuring up what I imagine I would say if a dashing rake asked me to dance. But if I’m feeling stuck with the story, I switch to paper and ink – preferably using a lush fountain pen, but anything will do if I’m really in the a bind. There’s something about not having to stare at a blinking, demanding cursor that makes it easier to brainstorm, even though it’s slower to have to type up what I write after.

Sara Ramsey Book Cover

How did you get the idea for your latest novel, DUKE OF THORNS?
The hero of Duke of Thorns is actually the villain from the last Muses of Mayfair book. The Duke of Thorington very nearly stole the show in that book, and I knew that he needed to get his comeuppance (preferably at the hands of a very self-assured woman). But the new series, The Heiress Games, is centered around a trio of female cousins who are competing for an inheritance – a little bit Bachelorette, but with all my favorite Regency tropes thrown in (house parties! arranged marriages! compromising situations!). Thorington’s heroine, Callie, is an American privateer – certainly not the kind of woman Thorington could ever imagine himself falling for…

If you lived in the Regency period, would you be a bejeweled member of the ton, the charming but poor relation, or a maid below stairs, and why?
Bejeweled member of the ton, obviously! The charming but poor relation has some upsides, since she can always come out of her shell and surprise everyone. But given the general lack of sanitation, the absurdly hard work required to keep a house clean, and the already-difficult lives of women during that period in general, I’d say the more jewels the better :) Not that money ever buys happiness, but I think I’d have a better shot at happiness if I wasn’t spending sixteen hours a day scrubbing pots.

And lastly, if you could rub a magic lamp and a genie would come out and grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?
1) security for my family and friends, 2) a wonderful man to sweep me off my feet (Prince Harry would be an option), and 3) that I would always look refreshed even after pulling an all-nighter writing (okay, that’s a little vain, but I’m sticking with it :)

You can find out more about Sara Ramsey at sararamsey.com. You can also find her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook. Her books are available on all major ebook retailers, and you can find all the buy links on her website here.

Sara has graciously agree to donate a copy of her brand new realease (ebook only), Duke of Thorns, to one lucky commenter! So don’t be shy!

 

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From Renegade Writer to Publisher

My guest today, Mary Chase Comstock, is the founder of Renegade Publications, a boutique publishing company that represents “novels of romance, humor and intrigue—like the ones you used to love.”

Mary is here today to tell you about her journey from renegade writer to publisher.

And she’s looking for a few writers to represent!

And so, without further ado, here’s Mary.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

A couple of years ago when I was filling in the information for my first Kindle book, The Fool’s Journey, I came to a field marked “Publisher” and paused. I didn’t have a publisher, (though not for lack of trying!).

The Fool’s Journey was the book of my heart, and even though I’d been traditionally published as a Regency author for several years, I couldn’t get editors or even agents to take this one on. It had won contests and a loyal contingency of fans wanted to see it published. Besides, I’d worked on it for 15 years and I was tired of it gathering dust. I needed to send it off into the world so I could get on with other projects. That’s what led me to self-publishing, something I’d always scoffed at before. It was also the first time I would make significant money on my writing.

“Publisher” was an optional piece of information in the online form, but I typed the first thing that came into my head anyway, RenegadeBooks. It said something about me as a writer—I was a renegade. I’d never really believed that editors knew what the market wanted. In fact, referring to readers as a “market” was a little insulting.

Over the next several months, I followed Fool’s Journey with my backlist of Regencies as the old rights reverted. I enjoyed tweaking the books, designing the covers, learning about marketing.

Then I started thinking about other writers I knew who were renegades too. Renegade Publications was about to be born. My friend and critique group member, Margaret O’Neil, had written several great romances, but editors and agents didn’t want her stories. They broke the rules.

Margaret was my first author, with Million Dollar Wife. We worked together to get her books ready for publication. I designed the covers and managed her promotions. Then, she began to find a monthly income coming her way. Next came Carol Duncan Perry’s backlist of Arkansas-set romantic suspense, and I’ve just added Nadine Miller to my group with her backlist of traditional Regencies.

Finally, it occurred to me that I was onto something.  Books were selling. I was taking 10% and liking it. My writers liked getting personal attention. I started thinking about what defined this minuscule publishing house:

RenegadeBooks is small.
I am the only staff member, so small is necessary. I also teach writing, wrangle two dogs and acclimate to having my retired husband at home.

Small is good.
I like being able to respond to my writers immediately, sometimes several times a day. Their writing is important and so is their input.

RenegadeBooks is a little different, but so are its authors.
–Our authors are talented writers.
–They either have a backlist of traditionally published books, or completed novels they—and others—believe in.
–They want to be a part of the publishing process, but they don’t want to deal with the technology.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

Our books reflect traditional romance sensibility.
Our books certainly are not prudish, but love is at their center, not sex.  If there are sex scenes, they are central to the plot. If you want to know more, read Peter Jordan’s Marriage by Margaret O’Neil.

I’m finding there are a lot of readers who appreciate a little old fashioned romance, with a little sizzle in all the right places. I’m interested in adding a few more writers who fit the bill—four to five this year and more later. If you’re interested, visit our website:

http://www.renegadepublications.com/

About Mary:
Mary is the author of five Regency Romances. She took a break from writing to vanquish breast cancer, and, fully recovered, is working on five books in a variety of genres using a visual mapping technique. Her newest book, The Fool’s Journey, is a contemporary romantic suspense. Mary holds a Ph.D .in Literacy, Language and Culture, and has taught writing classes at all levels. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her Scottish Terrier, Irish Wolfhound and Brazilian husband. Visit her blog at: http://nulla-mary.blogspot.com/.

What about you? If you enjoy reading romance, what heat level do you prefer? If you write romance, what heat level do you write?

 

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